As told to Corrie Smith
Eli isn’t short for anything; it’s just what mom chose. Being from a blended family in a small rural community, my life seemed pretty planned out for me. Farm life with my dad and brothers was thought to be on my horizon. My parents are amazing, don’t get me wrong, I just didn’t fit in with them or my brothers. I think my being the first member of my family to go away for school made my parents nervous, but I had to get out. My whole life, I’ve been questioned about my likes and thought of as being something that I’m not. All I can say is, I like what I like.
So I chose ONU. As a kid my favorite solo activity was building structure after structure with my Lincoln logs and Legos. Naturally this led me to think that I would love a career in Manufacturing Technology. I got half way through my first semester and hated everything about it. I was failing; I was depressed, I was miserable. Starting freshman year had been rough to begin with. Having lost my aunt to cancer after watching her fight an honest fight for 8 months was one of the most difficult experiences I have ever endured. Not long after that, mom got diagnosed with cancer too. I was emotionally unprepared for the pain of dealing with her illness so soon after my aunt’s loss. Mom got through it though. She’s a fighter, always has been. She’s an amazing woman.
Emotionally, I was disintegrating. I broke up with my long-term girlfriend from home, alienated myself, and my grades started slipping more and more. I thought I needed to push through and keep working at my degree. I thought that if I kept at it I would be successful. I knew I wanted to be my own person and not hit the same roadblocks that my brother had. In high school he was the golden boy. He was so intelligent, math in particular, and he was an amazing baseball player. After high school he joined the navy and all seemed well. His stint in the navy was short lived, as he quit the navy for a girl. Before long, he started his trip on a downward spiral. He ended up getting addicted to hard drugs and destroying his life. I knew that I needed to work hard and not be like him. But, I couldn’t brush off my own happiness just to have long-term success.
In my haze of hatred for my classes and personal demons, I decided to sign up for a class called Acting for Non-Majors. This class was a breath of fresh air. I felt like I was finally being me. This class was all I cared about, and my attendance to my manufacturing technology classes dropped more and more. This development got my mind spinning. I realized that what would make me happy would be to change my career path. I wanted to be an actor, a performer. I’d always loved poetry, big words, and tea. This had set me apart from a lot of those of whom I grew up around. Therefore, when I approached my parents about theatre, they weren’t surprised, but they weren’t exactly thrilled. My strange interests and different mind made them nervous I think. Maybe this is why we’re no longer close.
So I changed my major. And I felt alive. I knew this change was necessary and the most amazing part was that I found my place. I have the best feeling about how my life is changing. My interests, feelings, and thoughts are surfacing to be what is important. I no longer fear that I won’t be what I ‘need’ to be. Self-discovery and personal growth is what I’m learning from life. I still have a long way to go, but for now, I’m happy.
This story originally appeared in Facing Our Futures Beyond High School, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio.